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Performing Under Pressure: All Eyes on Cleveland

Top Public Relations Take-A-Ways from Cleveland Hosting the Republican National Convention

Two years ago, the city of Cleveland was anxiously awaiting the results of a bid placed to host the Republican National Convention (RNC). After being notoriously known for our failing sports teams, burning river and dubbed the ‘Mistake on the Lake’, city officials and residents were eager to redeem Cleveland’s reputation by hosting a national event.

On July 8, 2014, the city was thrilled to receive the announcement it had been waiting for: Cleveland was selected to host the 2016 Republican National Convention! Two years of detailed planning ensued and two years later, during the week of July 18, 2016, Cleveland eagerly welcomed visitors from across the country. Cleveland was still buzzing from our beloved Cavaliers winning the NBA Championship, construction projects were wrapping up and the city had never felt safer, it was a great time to be in the city!

Cleveland was the focus of the nation for a week straight. As an aspiring PR professional, my attention was focused on the PR lessons learned from my home city hosting the RNC. Here are my top takeaways:

Plan for anything and everything
According to the RNC host committee website, the city had 1,200 events planned for 50,000 visitors during the four day convention period. To ease concerns from local residents, the city planned for everything: bringing in approximately 2,500 police officers from out-of-state, releasing maps of revised traffic patterns and road closings, opening the city’s court for 20 hours a day (yep, you read that right! The court remained open from 5:00 am - 1:00 am during the Convention) and posting the RNC tipline on all highways going into the city for residents to report any concerning activity. The city even had crisis plans in place for weather emergencies, power failures and had all area hospitals on special rotation schedules. Luckily, none of these plans had to be put into action!

Use social media to communicate to the masses
According to Politico, Cleveland’s population temporarily increased by 13 percent in just four days. Local residents, business owners, delegates and visitors alike all wanted to be kept updated on any RNC happenings and the city did a great job of making sure they got all updates in a timely manner. The City of Cleveland used Twitter to keep residents informed of media releases, events and all things RNC related. The host committee created and managed the @2016CLE handle specifically created for the event. The Cleveland Police Department used Twitter to update attendees of any concerning behavior, arrests and to confirm or deny reports being made by media. According to TweetReach.com, the #RNCinCle hashtag made approximately 415,000 impressions.

Social media was used effectively to spread RNC related news and positive stories throughout the week. IScreen Shot 2016-07-26 at 12.03.41 PMmages of police officers playing ping pong with attendees and dancing in fountains with children were posted alongside RNC-related coverage. Visitors went to social to pro
claim their newfound love for the city - often commenting on how kind our residents are. Social media prevailed during the RNC.

Transparency is key
During the Convention, the City of Cleveland remained very transparent about all activities occurring downtown. Whether it was confirming media reports of an arrest, suggesting lunch spots for visiting delegates or sharing information about parking - the City was suScreen Shot 2016-07-27 at 11.12.52 AMre to keep everyone in the loop.
The city hosted daily media briefings, reviewing the day’s safety report and general activity around the city. These reports were also streamed via Periscope, allowing viewers who may not have had TV access the chance to view the press conferences.

Overall, I couldn’t be more proud to be from Cleveland. Seeing delegates and visiting media post about their approval of the city proved that the city’s efforts and planning truly paid off. The rest of the nation can now view Cleveland the way locals have and understand why we hold the city so dearly in our hearts.

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